Statues of Christopher Columbus dismantled in 2 Chicago parks

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CHICAGO (AP) — Two statues of Christopher Columbus that stood in Chicago parks were taken down early Friday under the direction of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a week after protesters attempted to topple one of the Italian explorer’s monuments clashed with the police.

Crews used a large crane to remove the statue in downtown Chicago’s Grant Park from its pedestal. A small crowd cheered and passing cars honked their horns as the statue fell around 3 a.m. The second statue was removed around 5:30 a.m. from Arrigo Park in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood.

In a statement released after the statues were taken down, the Democratic mayor’s office said they were “temporarily removed…until further notice.” He said the abductions were “in response to protests that have become dangerous for protesters and police, as well as efforts by individuals to independently pull down the Grant Park statue in an extremely dangerous manner.”

“This step is in an effort to protect public safety and preserve a safe space for inclusive and democratic public dialogue about our city’s symbols,” the mayor’s office said in the statement, which said the statues had deleted after “consultation with various stakeholders”. .”

The removal of the statues came after hundreds of protesters gathered near Lightfoot’s home on Thursday night to demand the funding the Chicago Police Department. The crowd cheered as an activist used a megaphone to inform them that Lightfoot would be removing the statue from Grant Park.

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“Thank you for the statue, now cancel CPD funding,” protesters shouted after an organizer led the crowd in a celebratory chant, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Plans to remove the statue from Grant Park were first reported Thursday night by the Chicago Tribune and the removal followed hours of vocal clashes between opponents and supporters of the statue. On July 17, protesters clashed with policewho used batons to beat people and made arrests after saying protesters targeted them with fireworks, rocks and other objects.

“This collapsing statue is due to the efforts of Black and Indigenous activists who know the true story of Columbus and what he represents,” Stefan Cuevas-Caizaguano, a resident who was monitoring the removal, told the Chicago Sun- Times.

Statues in Grant Park and Arrigo Park were vandalized last month. Statues of Columbus have also been toppled or vandalized in other US cities as protesters have called for their removal, claiming Columbus is responsible for the genocide and exploitation of indigenous peoples in the Americas.

Pasquale Gianni of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans said the mayor told him in advance that the two statues would be moved and temporarily housed elsewhere for public safety reasons.

“The Italian-American community feels betrayed. The mayor’s office yields to a vocal and destructive minority. This is not how the democratic process is supposed to work,” he said. Recount WLS-TV.

At a Friday press conference in Arrigo Park in front of the fenced pedestal that once housed that park’s Columbus statue, activist Raul Montes Jr. called on Lightfoot to resign for ordering the removal of both statues. He said the removal of the statues was an insult to Italian Americans who helped “build this country”.

“She erased history and it’s a slap in the face to Italian Americans. … We want justice,” Montes said to cheers from others gathered in the park.

Lightfoot and the city planned to announce a process “to assess each of the monuments, memorials and murals in Chicago communities, and develop a framework to create public dialogue to determine how we elevate the history and diversity of our city,” the mayor’s office added. in his statement.

The removals come as part of a plan by President Donald Trump to send in federal law enforcement officers to the city to respond to the gun violence, raising fears that the outbreak could prevent residents from staging protests. Activist groups filed complaints Thursday, seeking to prevent federal agents fighting violent crime from interfering with or monitoring protests.

Oregon State Officials sued over similar demands following the arrival of federal law enforcement after weeks of protests in Portland over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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This story has been corrected to state that the activists’ complaint was filed on Thursday, not Wednesday.

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